A new airport

Since I hadn’t flown in over a week, and my birthday flight was a bust, Aimee was kind enough to stay home and let me schedule a flight for today. It was a beautiful day to fly, too. Nearly unlimited visibility, mostly clam winds, and not much traffic.

The preflight went fine. After takeoff and leveling out at 2500, I put on the hood (the glasses that block my view of outside the plane) so I could add to my required instrument flying. I flew straight and level, following a VOR to get me to the Siler City airport (runway 4/22) about 20 miles to the west northwest. Siler City is the northwest corner of the practice area, so I’ve seen the runway from the air numerous times, but we’ve never landed on it.

A few miles before arrival, I took the hood off and made a radio call for entering a midfield crosswind. Siler City doesn’t have a parallel taxiway; one must go from the ramp out on to the runway and taxi down to a runup area (a short loop at the end of the runway). This means attention to traffic is even more important.

As I turned downwind, I noticed how different the surroundings were. It’s more hilly and trees are closer to the runway. The runway also dips in the middle, which isn’t uncommon. It’s so much, though, that when you’re sitting at one end, the middle of it goes out of site and the far end comes up out of the ground. It’s shorter and more narrow than Sanford, but not so much that the landing technique is any different.

My first approach to runway 5 was slightly high, but not bad. The landing was great, which is always a confidence builder. We did a touch and go and went around for another. I was a little higher this time, but still made it down and made a fair landing. The third time around, however, I was way high on final… so much that I knew pretty early that I wasn’t going to make it down. I opted for a go around. This was the first go around that I initiated due to a bad approach. It was good decision making practice, but I was so high when I decided to do it that the execution of the go around wasn’t particularly critical.

We determined as we went around that the winds had picked up from the south enough that we had been approaching with a tailwind and really should’ve been landing on 23 instead. I landed once more on 5 (making a longer downwind to compensate for the tailwind) and we taxied to the end of 5, did a 180, and took off on 23.

My landings on 23 weren’t quite as smooth. There was a small crosswind and I had a little trouble getting a smooth slip to stay on the centerline, but I was able to keep the nose from wandering too much. They weren’t too bad, but much work is needed. I was having a little trouble keeping the right headings around the pattern since the numbers are different than what I’m so used to and the landmarks are different.

Time was running out, so after two touch and goes on 23 we headed back to Sanford. I was able to enjoy the surroundings this time; no hood work. I was challenged to find my way back, though, without help from Gene. I had the VOR still set and knew that about a 120 heading would get us where we needed to be. It wasn’t too long before I saw the cooling tower from the Sharon Harris Nuclear plant, which is just a few miles north of Sanford, so I didn’t need the VOR after that.

One final landing for the day on 21. My landings always seem to be worse on 21, but it was okay.

It was nice to go to another airport during the day. 1.3 hours and six more landings brings me to 20.6 hours total.